Bill Gates talks Microsoft, cheeseburgers, and emerging tech on Reddit AMA

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In addition to finding out that Bill Gates would rather fight one horse-sized duck than 100 duck-sized horses, we’ve found out a great many other things about the ex-Microsoft CEO thanks to his Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) thread yesterday. Praised by many of the site’s commenters for attacking many questions with great gusto, we were given a short look into how the tech-exec-turned-full-time-philanthropist thinks and reintroduced us to what could be considered his best picture ever

Reddit AMAs are threads put up by celebrities and some of the site’s more interesting users wherein Reddit users ask questions of various nature. Some of the personalities who’ve previously held AMAs were Arnold Schwarzenegger, and President Obama. We’ve compiled some of the best and the most entertaining questions and answers from the Bill Gates thread for you, with some commentary from us in italics. 

Q: What type of computer are you using right now?
A: I just got my Surface Pro a week ago and it is very nice. I am using a Perceptive Pixel display right now – huge Windows 8 touch whiteboard. These will come down in price over time and be pervasive.

Gates included a photo of him next to a humongous computer (that you can see above), which he apparently used to type up his answers during the AMA. It’s an 80-inch Windows 8 tablet that current Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, also uses.

Q: What one Microsoft program or product that was never fully developed or released do you wish had made it to market?
A: We had a rich database as the client/cloud store that was part of a Windows release that was before its time. This is an idea that will reemerge since your cloud store will be rich with schema rather than just a bunch of files and the client will be a partial replica of it with rich schema understanding.

A comment further down the thread revealed that Gates was talking about Windows Future Storage – or WinFS for short – which was data storage and management system that was shelved around the time Vista was released.

Q: How was your relationship with Steve Jobs? I always hoped that y’all were really good friends and competitors.
A: He and I respected each other. Our biggest joint project was the Mac where Microsoft had more people on the project than Apple did as we wrote a lot of applications. I saw Steve regularly over the years including spending an afternoon with him a few months before he tragically passed away.

In the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson that was published posthumously, Jobs called Gates an unimaginative copycat. Gates responded with a long statement of his own during an interview on ABC News.

Q: Do you guys really use Bing? I mean seriously…
A: Seriously Bing is the better product at this point. Try the challenge. I am biased but the work to make Bing better has been amazing.

In 2011, Google conducted an investigation on Bing to prove that the latter was copying Google search results. Within the same year, a report claimed that Bing comes up with better search results than Google does.

Q: Did you ever own a Macintosh?
A: Microsoft does a lot of software for the Mac. I mostly use Windows machines but from time to time I have tried all of Apple products.

Q: Windows 7 or Windows 8? Be honest Bill.
A: Higher is better.

Q: I am just wondering what your thoughts are on Windows 8. Do you think in general it has failed? I am not saying it has, but there are people saying it is not good, and I wanted to hear your thoughts on it.
A: It is a huge advance for Windows which people will see even more as the great applications and hardware come out.

Q: If Microsoft didn’t take off, what would you have done and be doing instead? You are a leader in the ultra-wealthy philanthropists, but what do you think that people of median income can do to help improve the world the most?
A: If the microprocessor had NOT come along I am not sure what I would have done. Maybe medicine or theoretical math but it is hard to say. Most giving is done by the middle class so it is the backbone of generosity particularly in the United States. A key thing is to support government aid which is only 1 percent of the budget but helps poor countries in incredible ways.

Q: What emerging technology today do you think will cause another big stir for the average consumer in the same way that the home computer did years ago?
A: Robots, pervasive screens, speech interaction will all change the way we look at “computers.” Once seeing, hearing, and reading (including handwriting) work very well, you will interact in new ways.

Q: What do people give you for your birthday, given that you can buy anything you want?
A: Free software. Just kidding. Books actually.

Q: Since becoming wealthy, what’s the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?
A: Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses…

Q: Can you still jump over chairs?
A: Less than I used to. It was part of exercise for snow skiing. I still ski, but I am not as hard core.

If you search for the phrase “Bill Gates jumping over a chair,” whether it is on Google or Bing, you’ll come across this video of Gates doing just that.

Q: Do you still code – if so which language?
A: Not as much as I would like to. I write some C, C# and some Basic. I am surprised new languages have not made more progress in simplifying programming. It would be great if most high school kids were exposed to programming.

Q: What do you do for fun? I find it hard to fathom how someone like you can just disconnect. Disconnect from the emails, calls, the media. All of it. What would be your definition of a chill and fun day?
A: I love playing tennis. I am an avid bridge player (a card game if you have not heard of it – it was more popular in the past!). I like to tour interesting things with my kids like power plants, garbage dumps, the Large Hadron Collider, Antarctica, missile Silos (Arizona). I read a lot and watch courses (online or the Learning Company).

Q: What’s your worst fear for the future of the world?
A: Hopefully we won’t have terrorists using nuclear weapons or biological weapons. We should make sure that stays hard. I am disappointed more isn’t being done to reduce carbon emissions. Governments need to spend more on basic energy R&D to make sure we get cheap non-CO2 emitting sources as soon as possible. Overall I am pretty optimistic. Things are a lot better than they were 200 years ago.

Q: Anything left on your bucket list?
A: Don’t die…

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